Commodification of Voting: Celebrity, Spectacle and Social Movements
This thesis explores the role of social movements in encouraging minority youth political participation and mobilization, as well as the historical shifts in the tools movements have used to mobilize minority youth, a seemingly apathetic public. An historical examination of two movements - Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from the 1960s and Citizen Change from 2004 - and their respective slogans black power and Vote or Die! was conducted to determine if one of the trends has been a move toward a commodification of voting, whereby movements utilize celebrity, spectacle, commodities and consumption to market voting. Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle provided the theoretical foundation for this thesis, as Debord describes spectacle as the substitute for a direct experience. Accordingly, this thesis examines if an historical trend has occurred in which social movements substitute celebrity, spectacle, commodities and consumption for the direct experience of mobilization in elections. A content of analysis of SNCC and Citizen Change newspaper articles discovered in 2004, Citizen Change's phrase Vote or Die! linked the act of voting to celebrity, spectacle, commodities and consumption more than it did to mobilization. However, this was not indicative of an historical trend, as many of the variables used to gauge commodification in 2004 were not part of the social movement lexicon in the late 1960s. No correlation was made between the 1960s mobilization efforts and those utilized in 2004. In some ways, though, this finding makes the case that the commodification of voting may be a new, not necessarily good, development.
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